Lake Wales Charter Schools (LWCS) has developed an approach to serving its at-risk population that we are calling the “Keystone Architecture.” Based on its demonstrable success within our system, we believe the Keystone approach can serve as a model program for improving high school graduation rates, and that Keystone is well adapted for state-wide dissemination.
Project Keystone is designed to support achievement of educationally disadvantaged students in grades 9-12, focusing specifically on students whose previous academic achievement has left them without the necessary credits, grade point average and academic skills to meet state graduation requirements. Through the use of an Individualized Graduation Plan (IGP), students will have access to remedial courses, credit recovery opportunities, as well as tutoring during and after school. The IGPs include a monitoring system to identify achievement barriers such as social, emotional issues, and attendance issues, along with a professional staff, available to provide students with needed services. Engaging instruction that includes one-to-one computing and blended learning opportunities are also provided through the project.
Lake Wales High has implemented an industry certification program including Adobe Photoshop, Early Childhood, Ag Technician, EKG and more. Since 2010 399 certifications have been earned improving the futures of our students and their families.
Using a multi-pronged approach, Project Keystone uses a unique focus on architecture and its companion, design thinking, to provide a common learning language and framework for critical thinking that connects the critical content areas of math, science and language arts. The Keystone approach is layered in implementation. Design thinking is built into the curriculum school-wide and even in to the landscaping and design of the learning environment. The concepts are used more intensely with the projects’ target population, the roughly 25% of the school population that fails to achieve on-time graduation. Beginning with seniors during the first year of implementation, and expanding to their grade levels during year two, these students are grouped during English and whenever possible in other academics to create a cohort in which students receive intensive instruction in the Keystone Approach and careful monitoring of academic progress. Students lagging in credits or academic skills have access to credit recovery opportunities and tutoring both during and after school. School personnel will develop Individual Graduation Plans with these students and meet with them regularly to monitor their progress. Recognizing that rich curriculum is supported by effective instruction, Project Keystone has systematically implemented school-wide use of high-yield instructional strategies and research-based engagement and classroom management techniques.
Carefully designed assessment tools that align with curriculum standards and classroom instruction, coupled with a blended learning environment that in fuses technology into content delivery, instruction and assessment, round out the instructional aspects of the Keystone Approach. Additionally, Project Keystone blends a proactive initiative that supports students in maintaining high attendance rates and connects students to school and community resources available to deal with social and emotional issues. Another proactive measure that will gradually reduce the number students who fall behind in credits, GPA or academic skills is the Ninth Grade Tectonics initiative, to be implemented for the first time in the fall of 2013. Through the Tectonics initiative, ninth grade students will be taught study and organizational skills, as well as strategies for managing peer relationships. Another component of the initiative will support the exploration of careers and personal passions, as well as the development of goals and aspirations for the future. The combined elements of engaging instruction, effective classroom management routines, supportive mentoring programs and early intervention have drastically reduced behavior issues. As a result of the Keystone Project, the staff and students enjoy an atmosphere of mutual respect that keepsthefocus on achievement.